Making Chains

While at my son’s, one of the kids reminded me that some other time during a visit past, I had taught her to crochet. Yes, I said. I remembered. She asked if I would do so again. I told her that I have some crochet hooks with me but no yarn to spare.  She would find me some yard, I was told.

Half an hour later, five kids were making chains with my hooks and powder blue yarn. I noted when chains were even or too tight. It is hard to explain the purpose of things, I realized. I told them the best way to learn to crochet is to do it.

Hannah had a nice loose stitch. She had half a chance of being able to get the hook into her chain loops when she turns to put begin a second row. Kaelah’s were good but not very even. Tabitha’s chains were tight. I tried to show her to do it differently, but she somehow could not loosen up.

It was five-year-old Josiah that did his loops well enough to be able to turn the corner and start the single crochets going the other way. Once in a while he ran into a tight loop and could not get the hook through, but for the most part, he was making his second row. He was about half down his chain and wanted to turn again. I told him, no, he had to go to the end. He really wanted to move on. He asked me about other stitches and I demonstrated a double crochet. He really got excited about that and wanted to do those for a while. When he got in trouble, I searched his work and showed him where he’d made his mistake. Then I ripped out the stitches back to where he’d gone wrong. “NO!” he cried.

I explained that this is what you have to do when you crochet or knit or any craft. You  make a mistake, you tear out your work and go back to where you boo-booed. Did you ever have to do that, Grandma? I sure did, I told him. Lots of times.

I am at my daughter Beckie’s in Arizona now and working on a small cotton dish rag. I really like the pattern. By wrapping the double crochet around the stem of the double on the previous row in front of the pattern, then on the back, I created these cool ribbings. It looked a little like the braiding effect you often see on Irish sweaters. My Aunt Alice, who taught me to crochet when I was eight years old, once told me, “Anything you can do knitting, you can do crocheting.” I never really thought that was true. But this little trick made me think that maybe she was right.

I loved the pattern once I realized what was developing. As I was working my fourth row, I realized I’d made a mistake on the third. So I ripped out my work back to the mistake and corrected it and went on. Rats! Back on the fourth, I realize I’d made another, so I ripped it out again and redid the row. Oh my gosh! I’d made a mistake in the second row. I looked carefully. Would this small mistake really show? This is a cloth for washing dishes, after all.

I remembered Josiah. What was I trying to teach them when I talked about going back and fixing their mistakes? Going back and making things right is about taking pride in one’s work. I know from experience that tearing out a piece and starting again teaches one more about the craft than anything.

I tore out my work down to the beginning of the second row. I corrected my mistake and went on. It was so effortless now. I really understood how the pattern worked. Finishing was easy.

I don’t know how my Aunt Alice managed to teach me to crochet. I think she just kept doing it and let me work by her side. Later I learned to read and follow patterns. Patterns can still be a challenge after almost 60 years.

Last year I made afghan’s for Chris and Wendy’s oldest two girls, now grown women. The one for Alissa I really loved making. It was a unique pattern and I had chosen beautiful colors. But it was challenging. It took a while to be able to work the pattern without a mistake. Because of not so perfect lighting, early on making it, I grabbed a slight shade of white different from the one I started with. I didn’t notice it until the whole blanket was finished. Did I rip it out? You bet I did. Perhaps 50 or more hours of work had to be redone.

Rarely can we go back and correct the mistakes we make in life. But in a craft such as crocheting, it is possible. What a sweet thing that is!

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